Buc victory sweet for Hamilton

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   CULLOWHEE, N.C. -- East Tennessee State head football coach Paul Hamilton has had some big wins in his career, but not too many were much sweeter than the one his team earned at E.J. Whitmire Stadium Saturday night.
   The Buccaneers' 27-7 victory over the Western Carolina Catamounts was extra special for Hamilton. In his playing days at Appalachian State, and during his time as an assistant coach with the Bucs and now in his sixth season as head coach for ETSU, he had never won in Cullowhee until Saturday night.
   "Believe it or not I've never won in this place," Hamilton said Saturday night. "As a player and as a coach I've had so many close ones here and had never won, and that's why tonight I'm so proud of this team."
   It was probably really sweet for Hamilton considering that two weeks ago, the Bucs were sitting 1-2 after losing to Division I-AA newcomer Gardner-Webb and just getting by Division II opponent Mars Hill.
   "Two weeks from tonight we were probably flat on our backs and on the floor," Hamilton said. "A lot of people had written our football team off. As we know, we have so much work to do to become a good football team. But I'm so proud of these kids. Instead of hanging their heads and feeling sorry for themselves, they said 'hey let's go back to work and let's win the first one against VMI and then try to win a conference game on the road.' We look up tonight, and we're 2-0 in the league."
   OFFENSE IN FULL GEAR
   After struggling in its first three games, the ETSU offense has averaged 31 points in the last two contests.
   One big reason for that has been the resurrection of the running game.
   The Bucs netted 224 yards on the ground against the Catamounts.
   "I'm pleased with our offense," Hamilton said. "They did not play well in the second half, but we had 200 yards of offense in the first half. We blew a couple of opportunities, but the positive thing about our offensive football team is I think now I can look at our offense week in and week out, and see where we need to go and how we can make improvements as an offensive football team."
   Quarterback Jatavis Sanders was also a big part of the offense. He was only 7-of-17 for 60 yards, but he did find Cecil Moore in the end zone for a eight-yard scoring strike at the end of the first half that put the Bucs up for good.
   ALL-AMERICAN RECEIVER?
   Speaking of Moore, it's been a tough season for him so far. Combining offensive plays and punt returns, Moore fumbled the football four times in the first half Saturday night.
   Moore was upset about not being on the preseason Division I-AA All-American team, but he admits he has not lived up to expectations so far.
   "Right now I haven't hit my expectations," Moore said. "I can be a better player, but right now I'm just concerned about the overall team outlook. It doesn't matter to me. If I can go out and catch just one ball or catch no balls and we still win, I'll take that every game. I've never been on a championship team, and I just want to win so badly. I'm not really concerned about personal accolades right now."
   Hamilton knows that Moore is giving it his all, and the ETSU skipper will continue to go his way.
   "I don't care what happens to Cecil Moore on the football field, he's a human being," Hamilton said. "He's going to have some tough things happen to him, and he's been trying so hard and he wants to win a championship so bad that maybe at times he presses or squeezes the ball here and there a little bit. But the bottom line is he made plays when he had to for us to win tonight."
   ETSU fans still seem to be behind Moore. That includes Buccaneer basketball player Ryan Lawson, who was outside the ETSU locker room to support his old I-MAC basketball rival after the game.